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  Sunday, September 15, 2019
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The news that North Korea's leader had made his first appearance
The news that North Korea's leader had made his first appearance in public in nearly two months has not allayed the fears about his health, sources in Japan's foreign ministry said on Sunday.

North Korea's state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday that Kim Jong-il watched a university football game. However, the report did not say anything about his health or the day when the game had taken place.

The reclusive North Korean leader, 66, had not been seen in public since mid-August. U.S. and South Korean officials said he had suffered a stroke, sparking fears of instability in the communist state. Both countries raised fears that a regime change could jeopardize the complex process of ending North Korea's nuclear program, as agreed in a six-party deal.

Under the landmark 2007 agreement between the two Koreas, China, the United States, Russia and Japan, the North pledged to dismantle its plutonium-producing Yongbyon reactor in exchange for fuel aid and other incentives. Deconstruction work began last November.

However, in mid-September North Korea announced that preparations were underway to re-start the reactor, due to a failure by the U.S. to fulfill its side of the denuclearization deal.

The U.S. had pledged to remove North Korea from its blacklist of states sponsoring terrorism, which keeps the country in financial isolation. Washington has since said that this cannot be done until North Korea allows international inspectors to check North Korean facilities.

Kim Jong-il has ruled North Korea since 1994, when he succeeded his late father Kim Il-sung, the communist state's founder. According to Soviet records, he was born in the Russian village of Vyatskoye near Khabarovsk, where his father commanded a military brigade in which Chinese and Korean exiles served.


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